The legacy of Franz Kafka can be found throughout the narrow streets and sunny squares of Prague. For a writer who artfully mixed realism with the fantastical, it makes sense that many of his appearances in the city are less than obvious. Here’s where to find them.
Franz Kafka is one of Prague’s most notable literary figures, spending most of his life in the city and creating masterpieces such as The Trial and The Metamorphosis. He characterised his relationship with his birthplace as both loving and claustrophobic with his much-quoted line, “Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.” These are the best places to explore Prague’s Kafkaesque side.
There’s only one place to start your tour of Kafka’s Prague: the site where the writer was born, close by the Church of St Nicholas. Although the house where Julie and Hermann Kafka welcomed their son into the world on 3 July 1883 is no longer standing, if you look on the corner of the building you will find a small plaque which commemorates the event. The square has also been renamed Franz Kafka Square.
Prague’s monument to its most famous resident can be found in the Jewish Quarter, an area where Kafka lived for most of his life. The piece, created by sculptor Jaroslav Rona, depicts an empty suit carrying a smaller man (who is meant to portray the writer) on his shoulders. It’s inspired by Kafka’s short story Description of a Struggle in which the narrator rides on the back of a character known as ‘the acquaintance’, travelling through a surrealist, imaginary landscape.
Kafka’s legacy, and the surrealist nature of his work, has forever influenced the city of Prague and the artists who work there. Contemporary Czech artist David Černý, whose fantastical, satirical sculptures and public artworks have sometimes garnered controversy, honours the writer and the mark Kafka left on the city with this piece. The Head of Franz Kafka is a kinetic sculpture, made up of 42 rotating panels. Watch the face of Kafka shifting and changing as it gazes out over Prague.
Kafka came from a Jewish family and spent most of his life in or close to the Jewish Quarter of Prague. When he died in a sanatorium near Vienna in 1924, aged just 40, his body was brought back and buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague. There are signposts throughout the cemetery directing visitors towards Kafka’s final resting place, which is marked with a simple white stone. It also bears the name of his parents, and buried close by are his sisters who died in WWII. Fans of Kafka often make a pilgrimage here on 3 June, the date of his death, to pay their respects to Prague’s most famous writer.
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